Well, the first part of this day was really nice, but the last part was pretty bad. Not in weather, for once, but in traffic, road conditions, and drivers' attitudes. Hmmmph. However, up until we entered Pennsylvania things were pretty darn nice.
The weather was wonderful, as we headed south from Canfield following SR 46 to E. Palestine. About 1 mile before pit 1, a minor accident happened before we got there -- one of our support vehicles had tried to stop suddenly when flagged down by some riders, and when aiming for the flat-looking shoulder actually drove into the hidden ditch. No harm, no foul, but she had to be towed out.
Just before Pit 1 we also started really getting into some of the rolling farmland hills. Pit 1 was in the E. Palestine City Park, a nice place with a popular bandstand for the bikers to hang out in the shade. We continued out towards Negley and Fredericktown -- somewhere in there passing by a really cool-looking church and through a town that we really think is called "Pancake" -- because we didn't see a Welcome sign but all the businesses (both of them) were called Pancake something-or-other -- at the top of one of the steep climbs before descending into the Ohio River Valley. We were cheered on there by several young kids gathered just across from a historical marker which described The Great Trail (which we were then following). We passed through Calcutta (obviously this is the overland route from E. Palestine to Calcutta), eventually starting the descent into the Ohio River Valley, each side of which has a memorial park/scenic overlook dedicated to local people. We had a steep uphill and another downhill before reaching the north/west bank of the Ohio River, where we went about 1/4 mile off-route to go to the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign and take a picture of it. We also got pictures of the nearby marker post and historical marker for the federal surveyors' official recognition of where Ohio could start. However, this location was our first hint of bad things to come; there were persistent black gnat-type things everywhere at the border, and the road was extremely busy with lots of semis and no shoulder. Needless to say, this is a bad combination.
Lunch was in Midland, at Rocca's (an exceptional Italian place), which was excellent until at 2:20pm the caboose arrived to kick everyone out and threaten to sag them. We were 1 mile from Pit 2 (which closes at 2pm) but on the "wrong" side of it -- we had not gone there yet (but were not planning to), but because we were on the wrong side we were told to get a move on "or else". I'm not sure "or else" what, because the directions were to stay on the same street until after Pit 2 -- we really didn't need the arrows to get to Pit 2. However, we were apparently holding them up (and the other 6 or so of us at lunch there) and were therefore grouched at. Hmmmph. We got on our bikes and rode. Luckily, by the time we'd gotten to Rocca's a small shoulder had appeared so the oversize trucks passing us weren't quite as bad. Yet. I told them to try the tiramisu (which was great) but the suggestion wasn't well received.
We crossed the Ohio River on the sidewalk of this steel grate bridge, where I got some pretty good pictures of the atomic power plant and the cooling towers which are adjacent to the bridge. We were now following 168 south, a route highly unrecommended to bikers (although I'm honestly not sure what else there was to take). This stretch had a combination of several really bad situations. Firstly, a Jimmy Buffet concert causing traffic which annoyed the truckers/locals. Secondly, a detour that caused all sorts of traffic to take 168 to get to Hwy 30, and Thirdly, a narrow to nonexistent shoulder with broken and rippled pavement out over a foot left from the shoulder/white line, which left very little room for bikers to fit. Additionally, over the first half of this road, roadwork was being done and fresh tar and gravel chips were being thrown up by the bike wheels and the vehicle wheels, up about face-high to a bicyclist. This was also totally uncool. Apparently, the previous day neither the detour nor the concert were in progress, so the advance team had thought the road to be perfectly fine. But cars can't really rate the shoulder condition, and they don't get to hear angry drivers yelling at them to get off the road (this sentiment was heard in Illinois as well, but nowhere else until now). Not fun.
However, a ray of light appeared about halfway down the 168 stretch in the form of Andy and Courtney, who were giving away gatorade for the riders. We'd passed our friend Jennifer on the uphill out of the Ohio River Valley, and we knew she'd be in just as much need of a rest from the road as we were, so we asked them to look out for "a biker all in purple" and yell "Hey Jennifer, Stop!" to her. *grin*. They did, too, because Jennifer came by to tell us thanks later. Andy and Courtney were great -- they were telling us that the traffic is actually usually pretty bad, though, and they can only play near the house because of it. At least they have a decent sized yard!
Well, we eventually made it past the Buffet Concert (btw: the Parrotheads weren't the ones yelling at us -- it was the non-fans who were already pissed off about the traffic) at the Star Lake Amphitheather (in either Frankfort or Burgettstown, we're not sure). This coincided with the junction with Hwy 30, so pretty much all traffic coming our direction immediately disappeared, and I was free to do half of a Fins imitation for the benefit of the cars coming the other direction *grin*. I was holding onto the bike with the other hand. We got to Pit 3, finally -- and realized that the shifting problems he'd had over the last couple of days (of which I was mostly unaware) had culminated in his left shifter cable stay detaching from the bike. He has a Klein Comp Stage, 1997, as do 2 other riders on the ride. The other two had already had the same thing happen to them! Very suspicious. Hmmmph. Well, my nerves (and knees) were shot (all the climbing? my knees haven't given my problems before), and his bike wouldn't shift the front derailleur, so we sagged. We didn't like it -- but it was better than trying to ride in our respective conditions.
We got into camp at the Washington County Fairgrounds, and Ro and Steve (one of the other Klein owners) hooked up to discuss Steve's temporary-yet-holding solution and to see what was needed. I headed over to find Hammer (the lady who does the anouncements) to tell her that since people apparently hadn't understood my previous Team Public Storage message that I could go up and explain it, time allowing. She was agreeable, but did mention that there were already lots of announcements. Team Public Storage, for the readers' sake, is my idea -- for those of us who aren't paying rent on a living space, who's stuff is "somewhere" other than home, who literally are living on the ride, for riders, crew, and staff ('cuz were all in this together!) -- I wanted to do a group photo, like the Team California, Team This, and Team That photos. As it turns out, there are over 20 people on the ride in similar situations. All we have to do is figure out when. Camp Services says I should just pick a date/time, and they'll put it on the Big Board.
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